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   Garlic Festival, 2007
Sunday, September 30 2007
This morning Penny (that half of Penny and David) met us at our house, and the five of us (including Gretchen's parents) drove up to Saugerties to attend its annual Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. Every year the festival grows exponentially larger, an effect that was magnified by our not having gone last year. We came in the morning to avoid the traffic jams, and were amazed to see multiple State Troopers at every traffic intersection, beginning at the Thruway and continuing to the grounds of the festival itself. We parked several fields away from the lot where we'd parked the last time we'd come, which now had the status of rockstar parking.
I've never really figured out the site of the garlic festival. It's held amidst vast athletic fields, the sort one normall sees surrounding large state universities. But Saugerties is a small town with no institutions of higher learning, and it would be difficult to justify such fields for a high school. Perhaps the festival itself justifies these fields, and a local high school gets university-scale athletic fields for the other 363.24 days of the year.
As always, the garlic festival was impressive for its sheer crush of humanity. It's a rather uniform type of humanity: mostly overweight, nearly all-white (and by this I mean there are almost no blacks, Asians, or other people of non-European origin). At one point I looked out over this sorry sea of humanity and didn't see a single physically healthy individual. I found myself asking, "We think we can raise an army to invade and occupy Iraq from this population?"
We did the complete tour of the tents mostly vending garlic and moved on (but not fast enough for my hunger) to the people selling snack food. Penny and I both got falafel, although it came in a form completely inappropriate to festival food consumption. Instead of being rolled-up the way you get them on the streets of Jerusalem or Chelsea, they were presented as open-faced things we had to eat with knives and sporks (sadly, though, they only had forks).
The arts & crafts section is always the worst part of the Garlic Festival, and I keep chiding the others for hurrying too quickly past pun-filled macraméd kitchen wall hangings.
For some reason Gretchen was enjoying the festival much more than the rest of us, and long after we were weary of the place, she was still excitedly hustling from one booth to the next. At the end there, though, I was excited to buy a big carton containing an assortment of unusual edible mushrooms.

This evening Gretchen took her parents and me to her favorite eatery of all, the Garden Café in Woodstock, the area's only vegan restaurant. Since I'm not afraid of weird culinary fusions, I ordered the Indian enchilada.
During the meal, Gretchen's father told the tale of how, back in 1973, their family (along with a little two year old Gretchen), fled Uganda in the wee hours of the night after its psychopathic dictator, Idi Amin, started threatening Jewish foreigners in the country. As they were leaving their house, Gretchen's father instructed the household staff to crate up the household belongings to give to embassy staff should they show up, but that they should feel free to take anything they wanted. When the crates arrived in the United States, the only things the Ugandan staff had taken were a pair of "Hollywood beds," the only things they could be certain wouldn't immediately be stolen from their own houses. Amusingly, a customs inspector showed up before the crates arrived, prepared to charge import duty on liquor and firearms. It turned out, though, that all but one of the liquor bottles still bore the export seals from when they'd originally been shipped from the United States to Uganda, meaning no duty could be charged. As for the one open bottle, Gretchen's father was content to simply dump it out into the grass. There was still the matter of the one firearm supposedly packed up in one of the crates, but it turned out that this was simply a misspelling of "mortar and pestle."

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